One of my college Literature courses focused on reader perception - how reading is an interaction of the author's thoughts and the reader's own life experiences and perspective.
Our professor gave this picture as an example:
And then he asked us "How do you think this quote is meant to make you feel?".
We all, of course, say things about being "protected" and "safe" and "loved".
Then he asked "How do you think this quote makes a person who has been abused by their father feel?".
We were silent.
"What do you think 'caught' means to them?"
I think of this often.
Because I was never a daddy's girl. And yet, I'm raising one.
Shame is a reluctant companion to this topic, so I don't write about it much. While I've admitted that my father never once made me feel beautiful and was all around unkind, I've never actually admitted that my father was, and continues to be, an everpresent destructive force in my life.
Until the day he died, he never made me feel anything other than small. Ugly. Unloveable. Desperate. Bad.
I place the blame squarely at my father's feet that I was desperate to be loved by men, that I didn't care how they treated me, as long as they did. That my wee 14-year-old heart was wrapped up in a manipulative, controlling relationship for four years because abuse felt like love.
For years after that, almost every relationship was with the same man in different packages - my father - over and over again: life of the party, handsome, loud, angry, violent, possessive. And I ate it up. It felt so familiar to be loved and hated at the same time and to love and hate them back.
It wasn't until Chris came along that I thought "Hey! This love thing can be, like, happy? We can just watch a movie and no one throws anything? Neat!".
And I slowly started to soften. But, I know what I'll never be. I'll never be the woman who trusts, who caters, who is vulnerable, who feels safe.
Now, I see Savannah's face light up when Chris walks into a room and it feels so foreign. I can't fathom what that feels like. I see her wait at the front window for his car to pull up. I feel her crawl into his side of the bed in the middle of the night when she has nightmares. Every morning, she goes to him first to cuddle in his lap. She can't start her day without her daddy.
It's as if our childhoods are happening on different planets, they're so different.
My daughter runs to her daddy to protect her from nightmares and my father gave me nightmares.
And I just don't get it. But, I want it. I've always wanted it. And sometimes? To see it hurts. It hurts the little girl inside of me. I love that my daughter has what I didn't. She deserves it. But, I wonder why I didn't?
It pains me to admit that. It makes me feel like a horrible mother. I feel like I should feel nothing but selfless joy over my daughter's close relationship with her daddy. But, I often just feel out of place.
I know that this relationship with Chris will make her the woman she couldn't otherwise be. Savannah will grow up in the world flanked by a big strong protective grandfather and father. She won't need to wait for a man to tell her how she feels about herself. She won't fall for the first guy to brush her hair out of her face and tell her she has nice eyes. She will never doubt that she is safe. That she is protected. That she is cherished.
She'll be the woman I will never be.
Because I'll never get it.
How was your relationship with your father? Good? Bad? Average? Non-existent? How did it affect you as a child? As a woman? As a mother?